Middle ear disease in Aboriginal children in Perth: analysis of hearing screening data, 1998-2004

Med J Aust. 2009 May 18;190(10):598-600.


Objective: To describe diagnoses and correlates of middle ear disease in Aboriginal primary school children in a targeted school-testing program in Perth, Western Australia.

Design and setting: Analysis of records of ear testing carried out over a 6-year period in three primary schools in Perth.

Participants: Aboriginal children of primary school age (4-12 years) who attended the schools on the day of testing. Data on middle ear disease and hearing impairment were available for 119 and 94 children, respectively, from their first test.

Main outcome measures: Proportions of children with middle ear disease and hearing loss.

Results: Middle ear disease was diagnosed in 50 children (42.0%; 95% CI, 33.0%-51.4%). Rates were lower in older children (P = 0.002) but did not differ according to season of testing. Hearing loss (mild or moderate) was detected in 18 children (19.1%; 95% CI, 11.8%-28.6%). Hearing impairment was also less prevalent in older children (P = 0.007) and had no association with season of testing.

Conclusions: Middle ear disease is a significant problem for Aboriginal children in Perth, and is associated with mild-moderate hearing loss. Health authorities must continue to focus on appropriate identification and management of the disease in this population.

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Hearing Loss / diagnosis
  • Hearing Loss / ethnology*
  • Humans
  • Mass Screening
  • Oceanic Ancestry Group*
  • Otitis Media / diagnosis
  • Otitis Media / ethnology*
  • Prevalence
  • Western Australia / epidemiology